It’s the last in my mini-series about how to build your own Red Threads for your own messages and content. Last up, something I’ve talked a bit about before: how to summarize your Red Thread® in 30 seconds or less.
I call that super-quick sentence the “Red Thread Summary Statement,” or just your “Red Thread.”
WHAT IS THE RED THREAD®?
The Red Thread is the one-sentence summary of your Audience’s question and your answer to it. Its purpose is to both satisfy your Audience’s curiosity and create more.
Your Red Thread should fit comfortably as the answer to the question, “What is your idea?”:
My idea is… [RED THREAD®].
I’m going to talk about… [RED THREAD®].
This book is about… [RED THREAD®].
Our company helps [Audience] [RED THREAD®].
It should also meet the following criteria:
- It must contain some version of your Audience’s Goal
- It must also contain some aspect of your Problem, Truth, and/or Change
- It can only contain words that someone who knows nothing about your idea already would easily understand
- If you must use proprietary terms or unusual words, you must explain them using words that someone who knows nothing about your idea already would easily understand
- Be 140 characters or less
“What is your idea?”
- “We help keep patients on critical medications longer through simple urine tests that turn the effects people can’t feel into results they can see.” (Life science startup client UrSure, project: investor pitch)
- This talk is about… “how pairing Big Data with ‘Thick’ Data — data and insights drawn from what Big Data doesn’t (and can’t) track — can reduce the risk of business decision-making.” (Client Tricia Wang’s TED talk)
- We’re here today to present… “why investing in this project that helps more people see our content supports both the editorial and financial missions of our organization.” (Nonprofit media company client; project – persuasive messaging coaching to get funding to create a new newsletter)
- “The best way to feel more comfortable on stage and on camera is to address the imprints from our past experiences that are still lodged as fear in our bodies.”(Client Linda Ugelow; project: drafting keynote)
- “To keep millennial employees from leaving, personalize incentives to the people in positions.” (Client Tracy Timm; project: diversifying message to a new audience)
- “The best symbol of a commitment is a diamond because a diamond is forever.” (DeBeers — not a client, just one of my favorite examples!)
- “To manage your fear, do scary stuff on purpose, every day.” (Client Judi Holler; project: revising keynote)
- “To get people to perform to their potential, develop leadership at every level.” (Client Ted Ma; project: differentiating core message)
HOW TO BUILD YOUR RED THREAD®
To build your one-sentence Red Thread, use this formula:
RED THREAD® = GOAL + [PROBLEM, TRUTH, and/or CHANGE]
The Red Thread® always includes some version of the Goal. The Goal makes your message relevant because it establishes what Question your idea answers.
To make your message remarkable, as well, your Red Thread needs to include whatever aspect of your answer — your idea — is most unexpected or unfamiliar. That second part can be drawn from your Problem, Truth, or Change, or even some combination.
- DO THIS: Using the RED THREAD® “formula,” brainstorm each of the possible Red Thread combinations:
- GOAL + CHANGE (often the most common)
- GOAL + PROBLEM (next most common)
- GOAL + TRUTH (least common, but still useful!)
Once you’ve got some of the basic pieces in play, adjust the language to suit how you’ll use it (your Application).
- DO THIS: In place of the “RED THREAD®” in the formula, write introductory text appropriate to your Application:
- My idea is…
- I’m going to talk about…
- This book is about….
- Our company helps…
- DO THIS: Complete your Red Thread® with the best of your brainstormed combinations, making sure to meet the criteria listed above
Sometimes the best combination of your Goal with another element is obvious. Sometimes it takes a bit more brainstorming to find the one that will work best in your specific situation or Application.
As usual, though, keep those extra brainstorms, as those other versions of your Red Thread® will likely come in handy for future Applications.
FROM DESCRIPTION, TO TRAILER, TO FULL-LENGTH MOVIE
I often refer to your one-line Red Thread as your “opening shot”—it’s like the short description of a movie you read to determine whether or not you’re interested in it. If you are, you often seek out the trailer. If that looks interesting, then you’re usually willing to watch the whole movie.
Similarly, your Red Thread answer to the question, “What is your idea?” (and all its variants) serves your Audience like that one-line movie description. They decide from there whether or not they want more. If they do, you have the “trailer”: your Storyline™. After that comes the “movie,” in whatever form makes the most sense for your Application.
With your Red Thread as your minimum viable message and your Storyline as your minimum viable case, you now have a powerful one-two punch when it comes to telling the story of your idea. You also have all the ingredients to create what your Audience needs to build the story they’ll tell themselves, and others, about it.
Now it’s your turn! If you’ve been following along, I’d love to see what your Red Threads and Storylines are! If you email them to me, I’d be happy to give them a quick review on a future episode of “What’s Missing from This Message?”!I often refer to your one-line Red Thread as your opening shot — it's like the short description of a movie you read to determine whether or not you're interested in it. Click To Tweet
Please note that many of the links are affiliate links, which means if you buy a thing I link to, I get a percentage of the cost, and then donate it to charity.
Like this content? Be the first to get it delivered directly to your inbox every week (along with a lot of other great content, including my #swipefiles). Yes, please send me the Red Thread newsletter, exclusive information, and updates.